A few years ago, we noticed that the topic for our upcoming Sunday message was “Reverse Offering.” Most of us assumed that this would be a message of love, of giving, of receiving more than you give in acts of kindness and charity. It turned out that the message was in fact all of this, but really much, much more in both its operational definition and scope.
It turns out that the show-and-tell prop for the Sunday message was a pile of cash….literally….a pile of money. Our minister started off by thanking the congregation for all that we do in our community, and it’s true that we take a lot of pride for being a force for good and a proponent for love in east Tennessee. We have a lot of church teams that help those in need, feed those that would otherwise be hungry, provide support for those in need of social justice, and many other worthy endeavors.
In this instance, our minister explained that the reverse offering would be more personal in that each of us could come up and take as much as we wanted from the pile of money. Frankly, we all kind of looked at each other with expressions that said, “Is he serious?” The only requirement was that we use the money to help someone. The recipient could be an individual, a group, or a cause, with the only qualification being that it was what our heart called us to do. The other requirement was that on a Sunday two or three weeks later we had to be willing to share the congregation who we had helped.
I have to admit that, on that first instance, I felt a little sheepish about taking money from the church. I was certainly more familiar and perhaps more comfortable for the money to be moving in the other direction. But I took a little of the money and my family discussed how we could use it for the greatest impact. It turns out that other members of congregation did the same and, when we got back together a couple of Sundays later to discuss what we had collectively done, the stories were amazing in breadth and creativity in describing the giving that had taken place. In making our “reverse offering,” we helped not only our community and folks in need but we lifted ourselves in the process. The stories were joyous and it was a service of celebration.
Our yearly practice of “reverse offerings” continues to this day. This year our theme was “One Thousand” and the pile of money consisted of one thousand $1.00 bills. As you might imagine, this was a pretty substantial pile of money. Our format was pretty much the same in that each of us chose how much money to take from the pile and how to best use the money. While we have not yet had our service in which we’ll tell our stories, I can share with you a few examples that I already know:
paid for a night’s stay for a homeless couple
gave to Gatlinburg fire victim who lost his job
bought Christmas for three migrant children
bought 12 pairs of socks for residents of the senior living center
gave to Salvation Army red kettles in 5 different locations
contributed to the Family Resource Center at a local school
contributed to the Free Medical Clinic
donated to the Second Harvest “Double your donation” telethon
made Christmas cookies for a family
donated gasoline to an out-of-gas family
bought food for animals at shelter
pooled money with three other members to buy a rolling grocery basket for an elderly woman
paid for meals for a homeless family
bought 14 books for Children’s Hospital
Added $45 more and donated to a program that supports children whose parent have cancer
Gave to a co-worker whose sister’s house burned down
…and the list goes on and on.
Would a “reverse offering” work for your congregation?
For more information on the tip, please contact Fred Holland, Launchpad Ready Team Lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org.